Thursday, January 15, 2004
We watched a movie the other night called "Melvin Goes to Dinner." It was one of those movies in which four people in their early 30s meet for dinner and a bottle of wine, and the plot unrolls under their angst-riddled conversation.
They rolled through all the big topics -- existence of God, children: yes or no, why am I so miserable and misunderstood, etc.
In this mid-low-budget production, comedian Jack Black had a cameo as a psychiatric patient. Convinced that he has been reduced from omniscient creator of the world to mere mortal, Black asked for treatment and explains the trials of being human.
Humans are bombarded with so much information that they spend most of their life in a cloud. But every once in a while, everything lines up and you experience a temporary moment of clarity. So saith Jack Black.
Call it Saturday and I am not in front of the television anymore.
I am having coffee with my brother. He is four years younger than me, but light years more intense.
We were talking about his plans for the future. His talk wandered for a moment through his list of goals and then he paused and said, "Honestly, I just want people to like me."
Moment of clarity.
It was the most honest thing I've ever heard in my life.
Wanting others to like us is the motivation for everything we do and say, but the first rule of social interaction is, "Do not admit this out loud."
From that conversation, I concluded there are three big philosophical questions:
Who am I?
Why am I here?
Do people like me?
For the past week, I have been reaching out to the world through an ocean of phlegm. A hacking cough throws my body into seizures and isolates me from the rest of the world in my own personal leper colony.
I speak to you today as one of you and yet as an observer -- a germ-infested outcast.
This week, I have observed three approaches to getting people to like you. Call this: "Win Friends and Influence People -- abridged."
First, there is the fight or flight method. If you suspect that someone does not like you, disappear mentally.
For example, it was Tuesday afternoon and I was finishing the last phone interview for this issue of 4-Points. A band member was on the other line trying to sell his particular variety of punk influence fusion rock reggae.
The first two facts of entertainment journalism are: 1. Musicians hate to be interviewed. 2. To get exposure for the band, musicians must be interviewed.
After a few questions and answers, I heard the band member shut off. It sounded like a deep inhalation through a water-filled tube. He held his breath and then exhaled what sounded like a cloud of smoke.
If smoking yourself out of a social situation is not an option, try the "Hide my Faults" method of getting people to like you.
This widely used method was the topic of conversation Monday afternoon as I interviewed members of the Mixed Media Painting School of Steamboat Springs.
Artist Keri Searls started exploring "the things we hide from each other" in her canvases. As soon as she said it out loud, a spark was lit in the room and everyone agreed:
When someone asks, "How are you," you say, "fine." Smile. Curtsy. Regardless of how you really are.
If all else fails, you can try your luck with the "Neck on the Chopping Block" method.
It works like this: Be yourself. Ha, ha.